UWindsor researchers and local businesses working to fill hand sanitizer shortage
The University of Windsor sign is shown in this file photo in Windsor, Ont., on Nov.16. 2012. (Melanie Borrelli / CTV Windsor)
WINDSOR, ONT., -- A made-in-Windsor hand sanitizer is in the works thanks to a partnership between University of Windsor chemists and three local businesses.
UWindsor researcher John Trant is working with Wolfhead Distillery; InnerSeasonings International, maker of the TBQ line of sauces; and Peak Processing, a local maker of edible and topical cannabis products.
Trant is securing the ingredients he needs to make the product in short supply globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trant intends to use an ethanol-based by-product of the distilling process as the main ingredient in his formula. He’ll need additives to give the product a gel-like consistency and glycerine or propylene glycol to protect the skin from the harshness of the disinfectant.
“We are going to customize the formula,” Trant said.
Fortunately, one of the post-doctoral fellows in his lab, Fred Shahbazi, is a cosmetics chemist.
“Dr. Shahbazi has the background and knowledge to pull this off pretty quickly,” Trant said. “We think it’s pretty straightforward.”
Trant said the most difficult part of the process will be adhering to social distancing protocols, forcing the researchers to take turns working in the lab.
The bottling will be done at Peak Processing in Oldcastle.
Trant said the processing plant can mix 8,000 litres of the product at a time and has a cosmetic-filling line up for the task.
Trant’s lab will work with Peak Processing’s lead scientist Justin Binder on mixing samples and getting the product ready for market before bottling a gel form on site.
Helena Racovitis, president of InnerSeasonings, kick started the project. She reached out to UWindsor hoping to collaborate.
Racovitis will contribute bottles and help source ingredients. She said she has worked on getting regulatory approvals and to secure funding.
The intention is to offer the hand sanitizer on a cost-recovery basis, first to local healthcare facilities.
“The use will be local,” Racovitis said.
Wolfhead Distillery owner Tom Manherz has offered Trant his supply of “heads and tails,” the captured liquid that boils off at the beginning and the end of the distillation process.
That liquid is usually either disposed of or sold for finer distillation.
Wolfhead will bottle a liquid form of the sanitizer.